The round-leaved sundew is a diminutive but deadly cousin of the Venus fly trap. Its proper name, Drosera rotundifolia, comes from the Greek word meaning “dewy”, a reference to the plant’s glistening droplets of sticky liquid mounted at the tips of touch-sensitive tentacles. Resembling sweet-smelling crystal balls, they serve to fatally attract all manner of flying insects.
The hapless creature that alights on this surface begins a futile struggle to free itself from adhesive bonds that are like living flypaper. The more the prey panics, the more its fate is sealed, because each movement signals the sundew to releases yet more of the glue-like substance.
The tentacle-bearing leaf blade encircles the now-entombed prey by a process of nearly instantaneous growth, simultaneously engulfing it in digestive juices. Within several days, all that remains of the sundew’s meal are the indigestible wings and exoskeleton.
Explained by Darwin
Charles Darwin was the first to demonstrate the plant’s carnivorous feature when he conducted experiments in 1860 proving the juices it secretes are similar to the enzymes found in the stomachs of animals. Why would a plant opt for such a specialized lifestyle? Because most carnivorous plant species reside on nutrient-poor soils. These environments are largely competitor-free habitats, where carnivores thrive on nutrient-rich insects.